Tue, Jan 03, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Eyeing the back door to the WTO

By Darson Chiu 邱達生

In theory, globalization is a process that leads to prosperity and enhances the quality of life for all human beings. However, there are people who consider globalization to be a scheme used by developed countries to further exploit valuable resources from developing countries. Some people believe that globalization is nothing more than an excuse for those fully developed and insatiable countries to sustain their dominance in the global arena.

There used to be a widely accepted belief that globalization helped developing countries develop and flourish. This was a popular view during the 1980s and early 1990s. However, since the beginning of the 1990s, an opposite opinion has been strongly expressed: that globalization could be more harmful than beneficial for some developing countries.

Differences in opinion between promoters and opponents of globalization have generated significant conflict throughout the world. However, the animosity between developing and developed countries has been replaced by tensions between the different sectors that benefit from globalization and those that are disadvantaged. This was evident at the WTO ministerial conference held in Hong Kong last month.

Regardless of these two very different views, it is certain that globalization is an irreversible and inevitable trend that we will all have to deal with sooner or later.

Protesters who represent or empathize with disadvantaged sectors come from both developing and developed countries, including Taiwan.

These protesters have been striving to stop the process of globalization. Their main target is the organization widely recognized as the catalyst for promoting globalization, the WTO. Protesters equate opposing globalization with opposing the world trade body.

WTO negotiation rounds can result in the alteration of international and national economic structures. There are fears then that changed economic structures could lead to a reallocation of limited resources, and that such reallocation will have a negative impact on a number of vulnerable economic sectors, such as agriculture.

WTO protesters advocating the protection of vulnerable sectors used all means possible to oppose the negotiation process in Hong Kong.

Is opposing the WTO the only way to protect vulnerable or disadvantaged sectors? The answer is no. There are other more practical mechanisms which are feasible and could be more effective.

Before its entry into the WTO in 2002, Taiwan had been a member of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) since 1986. It also joined the APEC forum in 1991.

PECC is a semi-official organization founded in 1980. It comprises tripartite representatives from business, government and academic circles of 25 member economies in the Asia-Pacific region. PECC's agenda is aimed at improving cooperation and policy coordination in all economic areas, including trade and finance. Its goal is to promote economic development and cooperation among Asia-Pacific countries.

In contrast, APEC is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1989. Its purpose is to promote free trade and economic cooperation within the same region. APEC organizes events that bring together leaders and senior officials from 21 member economies to exchange views every year.

Thanks to its governmental endorsement, APEC has dominated the PECC since its formation. PECC has therefore lost its competitiveness. It has transformed its role from a competitor to a partner of APEC. PECC has become an APEC think tank, and now terms itself the "APEC second track."

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